Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brave old worlds

In the ongoing state of denial about the economy and student debt, I figured a good "first" would be going to see a type of show I've never seen before, while supporting a friend. So I went to see one of The Common Man's old roomies in a figure skating exhibition. It featured all skill levels, and was intergenerational, free, and local. Plus I got to unabashedly sing along to the rockin' numbers during some of the routines. (It's MIT, I didn't look weird or socially awkward or out of place at all...)

Then, because Netflix Online Viewing is also free, I watched St. Elmo's Fire.
I tend to hate high school graduation coming-of-age tales, so I appreciated the fact that St. Elmo's Fire was not a teenybopper flick. And though it overly glorified "college days" to the point of extreme annoyance, overall I thought it did a good job of covering the emotional transition out of the sheltered, privileged life on a small liberal arts campus (or university, in this case, since the characters are all recent Georgetown alumni).

Problem was, I had problems sympathizing with the characters' quarterlife crises and coping with the "real world". Maybe nine years out it's just hard to relate!

The other fascinating thing was watching it twenty years later, when women have made significant (though as yet incomplete) strides in terms of careers and financial independence. The main struggles of the female characters
involve being valued for choosing to work and not get married. And there were relatively positive references to gays and being gay! For the mid-80s, I think both of those issues were big. Also, the movie scored points for having an open ending: normally it irritates me if there's no resolution, but I make exceptions for vaguely existential situations where the uncertainties of life are the resolution, not the particular scenarios of the film.

Switching saints . . . The Difficult Saint was Book Six of Sharan Newman's medieval mystery series to which I've become addicted. After returning from Scotland, our feisty, intelligent twelfth-century heroine travels to what would be present-day Germany, to prove her sister innocent of murder charges.

In Book Five, Newman shocked her readers (okay fine, just me) with a horribly violent ending. In Book Six, she kills off one sympathetic character and has yet another horrible thing happen to another main one.
She's also been slowly building up a scene for violent (and historical) anti-semitic riots, and in the sixth book it all finally explodes. In fair Trier, where we lay our scene. Between anti-semitic mobs, warring German barons, and scheming Church officials, there's a murder mystery to be solved.

Mysteries are always good escapist tools for avoiding digging through Census statistics! As are fairy tales, quite literally...

I read The Ordinary Princess back in middle school when I read all of M.M. Kaye's books. (This is her one children's story; the rest are murder mysteries or historical fiction.) Twenty years later, I still love it. It's a cute, short tale about a princess who is cursed by her fairy godmother to be "ordinary", and so goes largely unnoticed by her kingdom and potential suitors. She is, however, free to be herself.

It's no secret that I typically despise fairy tales because of their gender dynamics. This book isn't at all a feminist retelling; indeed, it does nothing to challenge either the classist or heteronormative assumptions about fairy tales, princesses, or marriage in general. But it's cute. Like the movie I started the weekend with, it had slightly daring ideas for its time.

Speaking of the times ... Census data are calling.

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